I hate it when weather forecasts are accurate. Well, I mean, no I don’t. In fact I quite like it. But I hate it when the weather forecast says “Darren, where you are it’s going to tip it down with rain and you’d prefer it not to”. Such was the case overnight on Friday, as I woke up at just before 5am to the dual dawn chorus of rain falling hard against the brittle roof of our carriage, and the early morning express trains zooming past a yard or so from the window.
After giving up on getting back to sleep, I started watching wrestling on my iPad and promptly fell asleep. Good work, me. At around 0830 I woke up again, and woke Helen up too: darling, wake up, we’ve got o leave in an hour.
This is actually a later start than most Saturdays. Last week I ran my 14th parkrun in a row, but the streak is broken because there are only a handful in Cornwall and they’re all impossible to reach by public transport. Annoyingly, they’re also all in beautiful locations. Never mind.
So, yeah, rather than get up and run, we had to sort ourselves out for a train just after half nine. A rather panicky 40-odd minutes of showering and making cheese sandwiches later, we’re on the platform and heading to St Austell. To my surprise and delight we’re on a big fuck-off long comfortable intercity train. Being the only people boarding at St Germans, we’re instantly asked for out tickets and purchase a Cornwall day ranger ticket for £13 each. Then I eat cheese and a flapjack, and scribble lines in a train timetable next to the services I believe we should aim for today.
Inside we flash our train ticket, earning a 10% discount on entrance. A day ticket and a yearly tickets is the same price, because they plainly know that most people won’t be arsed to come back. We decide we definitely will. We almost certainly won’t, of course, but whatever. Shit, would you look at them biomes?
To reach the biomes we follow the Zig Zag Through Time, which basically means a bunch of ferns and stuff with a few plaques about dinosaurs. Despite the rottern weather and low season there are still a bunch of families with kids around, almost as if other people had realised it’s an all-weather attraction that’s both fun and educational. Bastards.
It’s kind of amazing, to be honest. Like Wisley RHS, except if it was in a hybrid of South America and Africa, there’s tons and tons of exotic plants, most of which are enormous.
We’re taught that around the world, plants have always had multiple uses. This one is for witchcraft and prostate problems; another is for flavouring fish soup, and warding off malevolent spirits.
Up top, it’s raining. This is a rain forest, after all.
The roul roul birds are everywhere now. Very tame, very cute.
It quickly dawns on us that we’ve done this in the wrong order. Immediately inside the biome is the recreation of a lacklustre Spanish courtyard. Then, er, another one.
Some of the plants are quite pretty, and I’m sure if you’re in the mood to learn stuff then you could. But there’s just much less here, and what there is isn’t as impressive as in the rainforest. Perhaps that’s due to familiarity, but we’re not certain it’s that simple. We think it’s just a bit shit.
The colours are good, so long as you’re not interested in yellows or blues or anything that isn’t green or red or brown or orange. Though bear in mind I’m colour blind; for all I know you lot are seeing this pop off the page in dazzling splendour, although I suspect Helen wouldn’t have found it so naff if that were the case.
Look at all them bokeh, eh? I mean, the plant is quite nice too. But the bokeh! The bokeh! That’s what modern people are inerested in.
It’s not all plants. There’s weird art as well, like a big bull.
The train is a bone-rattling two carriage piece of junk, pretty much full already. We stay on a few stops until Liskeard, at which we change onto a branch line.
Helen is uncertain as to the 3rd platform’s location until I direct her. It’s just there, see? I am horrified by how I look and decide that once I’m back in London I absolutely have to sort my diet out and get back out running 20+km a week. Don’t fuck it up, Darren.
I fucking love visiting the British seaside out of season. With the sky now entirely white cloud and no hint of rain it’s not unpleasant to walk around and I’m happier than a pig in shit. Not far south of the station is the bridge across the river, joining East and West Looe. We’re not entirely sure which side we’re meant to favour, but since we’re already East we figure we’ll start there.
The town centre starts right next to the bridge. There are closed takeaways, closed souvenir shops, and other closed shops. Some stuff is open: Boots, the Co-Op, some remarkably popular coffee shop. A few pubs look open, and Helen’s eye is taken by some owls for sale so we venture into a shop which seems, at first glance, to only sell Harry Potter stuff. But that’s not all it sells; there’s a bunch of other tat and HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE WHAT THE FUCK YOU’RE SELLING GOLLIWOGS? Not just one, not even just one size. There’s shelves full of the fucking things. I mean, wait, what? It’s not marmalade paraphernalia you know. And it’s 2018!
The town had been pretty bloody empty. Half the shops had been shut, since they’re mostly aimed at tourists and we’re the only two around, and we hadn’t told anyone we were coming. We’re quite thirsty and Helen says she spotted a pub on the beach. Er, yeah, I had too, but do you really want to go there...?
No. Jesus H Christ, the Boscarn looks horrific. But I know we walked past a few much nicer looking places back in the town, and sure enough the Salutation Inne is cracking. At 3.30pm or so on a Saturday afternoon we just about find a seat by being customers 5 and 6 in this town centre venue. Bustling this ain’t. Just by opening the door we get a notably exuberant “hiya!!!!” from the lass who then pops behind the bar to serve us our half of cider and pint of Tribute.
It’s lovely, but we’re already wondering how to get home. Nothing around here is as it seems; one part of the internet has convinced Helen that there’s a 1645 bus from up near the bridge all the way to St Germans, and will only take half hour or so. I’m suspicious, and while she’s in the loo I find another part of the internet that says the bus company which operates that 572 service went out of business in 2015 after two arson attacks killed all its buses. Huh.
So, back to plan A, the dual train home. Not every train back to Liskeard meets up with a train back to St Germans, so we resolve to get the 1727, which means we’ve still got 90 minutes or so to kill. The pasty shop opposite has now shut so bang goes that plan for provisions, but let’s go for another drink - in fact, why don’t we give West Looe a chance?
We’d spotted two main things from the East - a large amusement arcade, which was open, and a pub, which now that we’re right next to it we discover is shut. OK then. So down the river bank and past ... well basically nothing. Another hotel, and the West Looe social club (“a multi-screen venue!”, like having more than one TV is A Thing), and then - aha! Look, a pub!
Not just any pub, in fact, but Looe’s oldest pub, the Jolly Sailor. Pint, then?
Light is fading, which makes things look quite pretty really. Also there’s a load of rocks spelling out the word LOOE. There is no-one else waiting for the train, though two other people turn up just before it does. Literally zero people get off. I adore that this service exists year round (though not on Sundays in winter). Helen consults a local map and says “Hey! There’s a henge!” before bringing me back down to earth with “Oh, wait, it says ‘hedge’”.
The bloke responsible for Looe station died in the same year as it opened. Hope he got to see the fruits of his labour. I appreciate your work, Joe.
Just out of town is a poor man’s level crossing. There’s no barriers, just a sign that tells the train driver to slow down and “whistle” (honk, these days) before proceeding across the road. Cute. Light has now gone completely, and we stop at not a single one of the intermediate places. At Liskeard there are tons of people waiting to get on though, probably even 15 or so. Must be rush hour.
Liskeard is also dead. There’s a pub opposite the station with lights on, but it’s clearly closed. I figure it’s a seasonal venue but the owners, who must live there, have thought “hang on, we live in a fucking pub!” and have set up in private for the evening. That’s no use to us though, so we loiter in the station building. A stream of people arrive and buy tickets to Plymouth, and then the train comes in. It’s another big comfortable intercity service with first class ‘n all that. We’re only travelling one stop, but we have to shift down 3 carriages because he announces St Germans platform is too short.
15 minutes later we’re back at the carriage. Almost everything gets put in the fridge and we bugger off straight back out, because y’know what, we’ve decided to go to Scholars. It’s about 1835, so it’s been open a while and we’re very bloody hungry and the reviews on Facebook are all universally positive. We approach and the opening hours are out there written on a blackboard on the street but, of course, the fucking place is shut. God damn it.
Plan B, then. Further and into St Germans and the pub. It’s Saturday evening, almost 7pm, it’ll be rammed, right? Right. Wait, no, not right. It’ll have 4 people in it. Ha. As with the Salutation back in Looe, it’s being staffed by an excitable woman who greets us warmly and instantly asks if we want a tab just because we might want food.
Well, not might: we do. But drinks first. I’ll have a pint of that St Austell Brewery stout which I bought a bottle of earlier, expecting not to find it anywhere. Half of Rattler cider for the lady, thanks. I also get one of the “buy five pints, get one free” cards - valid only in this pub, and limited to three free pints a week(!)